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Iuliia Nesterenko

Technical Writer

How To Use Subscription Categories: Tips and Best Examples

Email is a great channel for promoting your business and building a long-lasting relationship with your customers. However, it will generate big results only if you have a good email marketing strategy and care about what you’re sending.

To get access to the person’s Inbox isn’t enough to turn them into a customer. If your campaigns contain the same impersonal content, don’t deliver value and don’t help people in their purchasing process, chances are good they will unsubscribe after one or two irrelevant emails.

To avoid this, let your subscribers set email preferences and update them when they need to. Use this data to create subscription categories and apply them for contact segmentation to ensure you’re sharing with your readers the same idea of the content.

How to Get to Know Subscription Preferences

Depending on your email strategy (campaign types, content variety, sending frequency, language versions), you can ask people to specify the following preferences:

  • Topics of interest;
  • Preferred product categories/brands;
  • Country/city;
  • Preferred language;
  • Preferred communication channel;
  • How often they want to hear from you.

You can do it in several ways:

  • Subscription form;
  • Preference updates;
  • Survey email.

Each method has its pros and cons. Below, let’s take a look at the best subscription category practices for each of them.

Subscription Form

Pros

  • Subscription forms are versatile. You can place them on the site page (possibly in several locations on one page), on the pop-up, on social media.
  • You’ll be able to send the preferred content straight after subscription.
  • You can add as many form fields asking about anything you find applicable to your email campaign strategy.

Things to Consider

  • Forms with many fields can scare people off. Two fields – name and email address – are optimal for subscription.
  • If you opt to include additional fields with preferences, mark them as optional so that people can skip them and complete the subscription fast.

Subscription Form Examples (with Extended Fields)

  • Email type + frequency + language

Statista asks about how often you want to receive and in what language.

Subscription form by Statista

  • Email address + phone number

In the pop-up form, NaturAll Club asks to enter email and phone, making the phone field optional.

Pop-up subscription form

  • Double confirmation + preferences

After you fill in a basic form with the email address, Banana Republic asks to confirm it and also offers to specify categories of interest, enter your birthday and opt for partners’ content.

Form by Banana Republic

  • Follow-up pop-up

After you fill in the basic form, MVMT shows a short pop-up clarifying some personal details.

Follow-up subscription form by MVMT

  • Custom preferences

Hotel Wailea asks clients to select a travel personality so that they can pick up the right offers and sales. It’s an example of a product-specific preference applicable to hotels, to Hotel Wailea in particular.

You can add to your form unlimited fields relevant for your service if you think the obtained data will improve your emails and subscriber experience. For example, restaurants can ask about the preferred cuisine; gyms can ask about favorite sports or classes; beauty studios can ask about the most relevant procedures.

It’s important for everyone, though, to put the obtained data into action. If you ask but do nothing with the answers and don’t use them for segmentation and personalization, your marketing strategy will fail and you’ll lose the following.

Free form + Integration with external services!

For every new registrant, eSputnik offers a free subscription form built in the site’s corporate style. To apply for it, you need to submit a form and specify your preferences and field types.

What’s more, eSputnik has just released Forms – a new functionality that allows you to integrate Tilda forms through webhooks. Integrations with Wix and other site builders are coming. With Forms you can:

  • Integrate with forms created on external platforms;
  • Collect new contacts;
  • Collect data on the existing contacts;
  • Send parameters from main and additional form fields;
  • Add Double Opt-In for new subscribers;
  • Set a series of onboarding emails.

Integration with Tilda

Preference Updates

Preference updates give both new and existing subscribers control over the incoming materials. Registered website users can do them in the personal account on the site.

Preference updates by Medium

For subscribers who aren’t registered on the site, add a preference update link to all emails you send. Make it clear and easy to spot and, of course, make sure it’s clickable and leads to the right page.

Preference update by Artifact Uprising

Pros

  • The person can change their preferences whenever they want, without waiting for you to ask.
  • It’s a good way to complement the initial subscription form with extra fields;
  • The preference link can keep the subscriber from clicking the unsubscribe link.

Things to Consider

  • Not all subscribers have a registered account. Make sure that they also can set their preferences.
  • Not all people are aware of such an option. Once in a while, remind subscribers about it in your emails and put the note above the fold so that the person can’t miss it.
  • In emails, make the preference update link visible and separate it from the rest of the text with white space, horizontal separators, etc.

Surveys

Email surveys are effective for customer reactivation. If you see the drop in the open rate and click rate, maybe it’s time to ask your subscribers whether they want to change something in the interaction with you.

Survey by Postman

You can create email surveys in two ways:

  • Add a link to the form created on the external platform.
  • Create a dynamic survey in the eSputnik editor using a ready block with an AMP form. It will allow the user to take the survey straight in the email.

Read a full guideline on how to launch email surveys and process the collected data.

Email survey by HelloFresh

Pros

  • You can send surveys when you want, for example, when you see a drop in your open rate or click rate.
  • You can design surveys based on your product with unlimited fields or checklists.
  • They are easily created and don’t need extra coding or HTML skills.

Things to Consider

  • You need to use a good automation tool for data collection and processing. You can’t process every survey manually or make changes to the contact profile.
  • People may ignore your surveys or will be reluctant to answer the questions. You need to work on persuasive subjects and encouraging incentives.

Email survey by PooshWoosh

How to Use Subscription Categories in Your Email Strategy

Once you’ve collected the preference data, use it to build subscription categories and send people emails they’ve opted for.

You can create several subscription categories depending on your campaign types:

  • Newsletters;
  • Monthly digest;
  • Product categories;
  • Promo and sales;
  • Offers by partners, etc.

Learn a full guide on how to create and manage subscription categories in eSputnik and use them for segmentation.

And below let’s take a look at how major brands use subscription preferences and what you can steal from them.

Categories by channel

Facebook asks what channel is more preferable for you and where you want to receive notifications:

  • Email;
  • Push;
  • SMS.

This strategy is applicable to all brands that do multichannel communication and use several channels for messaging.

Notification categories by Facebook

Categories by activity

Osprey offers to select a primary activity and additional activities and then sends sales and product recommendations based on the stated choices.

Newsletter categories by Osprey

Categories by newsletter type

REI sends different types of campaigns and offers subscribers to choose any of them. You can choose unlimited newsletters or all of them if you want.

Newsletter categories by REI

Categories by interests

Six Senses Hotel asks to provide details on interests and subscription types.

Newsletter categories by Six Senses Hotel

Categories by professional interest

Salesforce is a B2B platform with the audience consisting of businesses and marketers. No wonder they offer to select the industry and newsletter type based on the business interests.

Newsletter categories by SalesForce

Multiple categories

YETI has a really impressive list of preferences:

  • Sending frequency;
  • Campaign type;
  • Favorite color;
  • Preferred activities.

If users do fulfill the entire profile, the data will be enough to send very personalized emails.

Newsletter categories by YETI

Outdoor Voices is a sports outfit company so they need to know style and color preferences and favorite activities to show the relevant content.

Newsletter categories by Outdoor Voices

The Grommet offers to select frequency sending and gender of the gift sender and recipient.

Newsletter categories by The Grommet

Note!

In eSputnik you can use Annoyance Level. This feature lets message limits and manage the sending volume.

Subscription Management through the Unsubscribe Page

With time, some people may lose interest in your product and it’s normal. Unsubscription is a part of a customer lifecycle for any business. However, sometimes people want to stop receiving from you not because of your product but because of your email strategy:

  • They no longer like the content;
  • You send it too often;
  • You don’t consider the subscription preferences they’ve already specified.

You can return such subscribers by giving them options on the unsubscribe page.

Look at how mahabis does it. They offer to cut the sending volume and send only monthly emails instead of regular newsletters and promos.

There is also a smart option of snoozing emails for a certain period. It can be especially relevant for big holiday seasons when people are buried under commercials of all kinds on all channels.

There are sensitive holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day when many would also like to opt out of any related communications, so a snoozing option can be a way out.

Preference updates by Mahabis

Before unsubscribing, e.l.f. cosmetics offer to update sending frequency and newsletter types to make the email strategy more relevant for the subscriber.

Preference updates by e.l.f. Cosmetics

Maniology has a basic update form and offers to edit the newsletter categories.

Preference updates by Maniology

If the person wants to unsubscribe anyway, give them the option to explain the reason for leaving. See what answers are selected most often: it can make you consider revising your email marketing strategy.

Unsubscribe confirmation page by NextAvenue


Subscription categories are an effective tool of email marketing personalization and segmentation. What’s more, they can be applied to other channels as well – SMS, browser notifications, app notifications, and Viber messages. Incorporate them in your content strategies to ensure people receive from you only what they are interested in.

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Iuliia Nesterenko

Technical Writer

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